Dixon-area shootings spark calls for support
Two killings just a week apart have Etobicoke community asking for prevention programs
A16-year-old shot and killed in Toronto’s Dixon Road neighbourhood is being remembered as an enthusiastic and eager young boy.
Farhia Warsame, the director of the Somali Women and Children Support Network, said Zakariye Ali frequently attended her centre’s youth leadership program when he was 13 and 14 years old. She said he was one of many children always excited to be there who oftentimes did not want to leave the centre.
His death was one of two separate murders that shook the community over the span of a week. Last Thursday, Abdulkadir Bihi, 29, was fatally shot and found in a vehicle in front of an apartment building on Dixon Rd.
Four days after his death, Ali died of his injuries in hospital following a triple shooting in the parking lot of Kingsview Village School at Dixon Rd. and Islington Ave.
Warsame lost her own son to gun violence in 2015, in a double murder in downtown Toronto. She was shocked, she said, and unable to speak out when it happened.
“Too many of us are burying our children because of the violence,” Warsame said. “Our community is underserved, no one is investing in our youth and supporting them.”
She says the area lacks programs to engage and inspire youth. Even the leadership program Ali attended is no longer available, she said, because its two-year funding ended in 2015.
“When something happens, the media will show up, the police come, but then everybody leaves and we are left on our own,” she said. “There is no prevention; no one works to prevent these things from happening.”
In a rally on Thursday morning, Warsame called on provincial politicians to visit the neighbourhood to assess the lack of support and to see how violence is impacting the community.
“We need sustainable programs to keep them busy and give them opportunities to learn and grow and have choices, and to build their skills and relationships with each other,” Warsame said.
Area councillor Michael Ford attended the demonstration and said he plans to hold a meeting with city officials, the community and the school board to address the issues the neighbourhood is grappling with.
“It’s really important that the city is investing in support programs for the community,” Ford said. “We need to come together and learn what the path is to move forward and make the difference that we need.”
Warsame said the Somali community in the area is also gathering on Saturday to discuss what it can do to respond and prevent future violence.
Ali’s funeral will be held on Friday at noon in the Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque in Etobicoke. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family with funeral expenses.
Abdulkadir Bihi, 29, left, was found with gunshot wounds inside a car, and Zakariye Ali, 16, was shot in the parking lot of Kingsview Village School.